Mobile Posse: Home screen’s value being recognized

Screen shots of Mobile Posse’s home screen software, in this case used for customer care recommendations to users.

Home screen engagement company Mobile Posse is touting the results of a three-month Arbitron study on consumer use of the home screen on mobile devices, in the face of a market that has seen some major recent moves from brands trying to claim that real estate and customer engagement for themselves.

The home screen, according to Greg Wester, head of research for Mobile Posse, is “beach front real estate” because of how often mobile users check it. The company cites a series of stats on how often consumers check their home screens: Nokia found that the average person checks his or her phone every six minutes; a Mobile Mindset study found that 60% of consumers check their phones at least once an hour. Nielsen reported that 26% of time spent on mobile phones involves interacting with the OS’ home screen, while LumiMobile found that users check their home screens — and only the homescreen — between 30 to 70 times per day.

“People are spending more time on their mobile than thing else,” said Wester. The home screen, he added, “is where consumers spend most of their time on the device that they’re spending most of their time on.”

Wester said that the results came from a study for which Mobile Posse was contacted by Arbitron, for permission to use its preinstalled software to recruit consumers who were willing to give information on how they used their phones and their level of engagement with various applications. Mobile Posse’s app is white-labeled for carriers to re-brand and usually pre-installed on devices by OEMs for carriers; it can be used for alerts such as news, gas prices, or customer service messages from wireless operators. Consumers configure which information they want to receive. The company, which has partnerships with major brands such as Yahoo!, The Weather Channel and the Associated Press, said its software is used by 20 million customers across seven carriers and that it generates about 2 billion messages to consumers per month.

Aribitron’s study involved a three-month tracking period through March 2013 of about 3,000 consumers using Mobile Posse’s MobiTiles on a dozen Android OS models made by multiple OEMs: Samsung, LG, ZTE and Huwei. Abitron found that for those consumers, their engagement with Mobile Posse’s messages far outweighed even Facebook, Google, Gmail and YouTube by most measures. For example, more than 95% of those with MobiTiles installed interacted with the app every month — compared with only about 50% of participants using the Facebook app on their mobile device each month. MobiTiles even slightly outperformed the popular Google search app, which had more than 93% reach each month among users who had the app on their devices. Android Market and Gmail tied for the third-highest reach, with 85.6% of users with access to the app interacting with them monthly.

MobiTiles also had impressive stats on how often users accessed it — about 23 days out of the month, versus the second-place app, Facebook, being accessed more than 19 days each month. Users checked Yahoo! mail on their phones at the third most frequent rate, about 17 days each month.

Facebook still won out on face-time, however. Even though only 50% of users with the app accessed it each month, that still translated to more than 425 minutes per month where those users were engaged with the application. Users spent about 190 minutes per month on the Chrome browser, 187 minutes on Instagram, and MobiTiles clocked in fourth at almost 160 minutes per month — still impressive, Wester said, considering the brands with which it is competing. YouTube engagement came in at 117 minutes per month, according to the Arbitron figures.

Wester called the results a pleasant surprise on MobiTiles’ performance — but not a surprise, he said, that various players in the mobile ecosystem are starting to recognize the value of the home screen and capitalize on it. Microsoft has made its Life Tiles play in the space, and HTC has introduced Blinkfeed in an attempt to make home screens more interactive and rich, appealing to consumers’ desires to get the information they want from their mobile devices faster and easier while also laying claim to the screen real estate. Facebook introduced its Facebook Home in April to put its application, and social media updates, front and center on users’ mobile devices.

“There have been very few others talking about [the home screen] until this quarter,” Wester said. The takeaway from the research, he said, is not just that MobiTiles did so well — but that “when you allow someone to get content that they like and control it … so it’s present only when it’s not going to be intrusive, you get tremendous usage.”

Jon Jackson, CEO of Mobile Posse, noted that the non-intrusive element, rather than traditional SMS messaging or other attempts to engage consumers, is key.

“The ability to put a message on the mobile screen in a non-intrusive way, where the consumer is most willing and able to process, is fairly complex. It is very different from simply sending a message, and very different than merely filling a box within an app or mobile web site,” Jackson said. “The battle for the home screen is a critical one for everyone from the wireless carriers, OEMs and advertisers.”

And if carriers don’t act quickly to keep control of that home screen by providing content, Wester said, OTT players and OEMs will certainly take advantage and accustom consumers to using their UI — and reaping the benefits from advertisers and content publishers.

He added, “You as a carrier have spent hundreds of millions or billions on infrastructure, you’ve spent hundreds of millions on device subsidies, you’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on building out and buying from the FCC licenses for spectrum, and at the end of the day, Google is going to control how you communicate with your customer? Or Apple is going to control how you communicate with your customer? … In what world does that make sense?”

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